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Work on Highway 101 Commuter Lanes About to Begin in Novato

$50 million project will connect carpool lanes to north and south.

Freeway commuters have anticipated remedies to Highway 101 traffic backups for decades, and a new fix is on the way soon.

A two-year, $50 million Caltrans project to extend carpool lanes through Novato broke ground on Thursday, and it is expected to reduce driver frustration, vehicle congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

Several dozen Caltrans officials, construction managers, elected officials and other government leaders were on hand for the traditional golden shovel ceremony at the Park and Ride lot off Rowland Boulevard. The Novato City Council was represented by Carole Dillon-Knutson, and the Marin County Board of Supervisors was represented by District 5’s Judy Arnold. Representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, state Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Jared Huffman joined in.

Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi provided the basics on the first phase of the Marin Sonoma Narrows Project on Highway 101 that will add 3.2 miles of northbound lane between Highway 37 and Atherton Avenue and 1.6 miles of southbound lane between Novato Creek (between Rowland and De Long) and Highway 37.

The high-occupancy vehicle lanes eventually will be part of a continuous lane between Novato and Mill Valley.

The first phase will have little to do with what local residents call the Narrows — the part of 101 north of Atherton Avenue where three lanes narrow to two. Caltrans knows that is the real bottleneck for those heading toward Petaluma, but the HOV lanes south of there are the first step to traffic relief, officials said. Widening the road between Novato and Petaluma is scheduled to start in a few years.

Of the $50 million for the first phase, $31 million comes from Proposition 1B, approved by voters in 2006 for transportation projects, Caltrans said.

Dave July 15, 2011 at 07:46 PM
The improvement on 101 through San Rafael is fantastic, except for one thing. Southbound Central San Rafael exit has only one lane. This causes traffic to slow to a crawl in the slow lane with drivers in the other lanes affected by other lanes unable to merge to the slow lane to exit. Rework the exit so it has 2 exit lanes and that would fix the problem.
Dave July 15, 2011 at 07:56 PM
I believe the Novato Narrows plan includes a complete rework and adding a series of frontage roads. I would add the highway lanes ASAP and do the frontage roads 20 years from now if at all. The limited traffic that merge and exit on to 101 is not worth the huge additional cost. The most bang for the buck, traffic relief and safest course is to not delay the extra lane on the highway and forget about the frontage road.
Gabriel Barkin July 24, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Although I agree that 4 lanes down to 2 is not ideal, here's a different perspective: I live at the Atherton exit, and there are a ton of cars like mine adding to the afternoon choke each day who are just trying to get off at Roland and Atherton/San Marin. Anything that gets those cars off the road sooner will reduce the choke. The added lane will clearly allow more movement through the northern end of Novato, and if anything will ease congestion at the chokepoint.
tony July 24, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Really? Wait 20 years to build the frontage roads? Wow, so I guess the property owners won't have access to their own property for 20 years? I'm sure they'll be thrilled. The reason for the frontage roads is to allow the access that they're entitled to. Buying the right of way from private landowners is part of what drove up the cost.
Larry October 14, 2011 at 11:35 AM
So much money has been wasted "studying" the narrows over many years that the whole thing is outdated already. When the thing is finished the situation will be just like it was before.

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